19 March 2017

Hafiz Adewuyi

My successful US non-immigrant (DS-160) visa interview in Lagos Nigeria

TL;DR

  • I had Eba and Egusi for breakfast
  • The DS-160 interview took place at the US consulate (embassy) at 2, Walter Carrington, Victoria Island, Lagos
  • I forgot my International passport (of all things) at home and had to travel back from Victoria Island to Yaba to get it. Luckily I found out early enough to be able to make that trip in good time. I think I was just too relaxed about the whole thing, and thank goodness it was not a Monday morning #lagosTraffic
  • I was turned back at the US consulate check-in point because I did not have the following documents:
    • GTBank VISA fee payment receipt print-out
    • Visa interview appointment confirmation print-out
  • I was given a one-hour window to go back and get all of my missing documentation
  • Cumulative time spent on check-in and actually getting interviewed was about ten minutes only. No queues at all
  • Actual interview took less than 5 minutes. A few questions which were basically just fact-checking what I had filled in the application
  • The only required documents are as follows. Don't let any tout on the way to the consulate tell you otherwise (and they will try really hard):
    • Your International Passport (no need for photocopies, even though you can make a couple to boost your confidence)
    • Your visa fee payment receipt print-out from GTB
    • Your DS-160 visa application confirmation print-out
    • A print-out of your visa interview appointment confirmation
    • One copy of standard passport photograph (click to see US visa passport photo specifications). I paid 1500 for only 4 copies of this somewhere in V.I. because I did not want any stories and someone had referred them. In the end, none of the passport photographs was withheld after the interview. I went home with all of them. It's just for sighting. But hey, make sure you have a few copies.
  • In the end, you go back home with all of the documents, except your International passport, which will (hopefully) be withheld for the affixment of the visa
  • Drop all electronic devices at home/office. Go with your clothing and the required documents ONLY. If you can't avoid having electronics e.g. your phone, the security people outside the consulate can 'help' you hold it for the duration of your interview
  • I produced one litre of sweat to drench my TM shirt walking back and forth Kofo Abayomi and Walter Carrington under the hot Wednesday morning Lagos sun. When I finally returned to my office, my soul thanked the inventor of air-conditioning as usual
At this point, you're free to confidently walk away because the rest of the article is more or less a rant. Don't say I didn't warn you.

LONG STORY

Scheduling my interview

Last Monday, I finally got information that the long-anticipated US trip would come up in April 2017 and that I should go ahead to schedule my visa interview. I had concluded my DS-160 B1 non-immigrant visa application since September 2016 because the trip was meant to be in October 2016. However, the trip was postponed till 2017 due to logistics reasons. 

I quickly rallied around and got all the information I needed to schedule an interview. The simple procedure is as follows:
  • Pay your visa fee at any GTBank branch. This took me less than ten minutes. Very quick service at the Adeola Odeku branch of GTBank
  • Next day or four hours after paying (depending on how early you paid), proceed to the US visa interview portal to schedule your interview. Very seamless process.  Towards the end of the process, you will have to enter the receipt number on the GTBank fee payment printout
The earliest date available for interviewing was on Wednesday of the next week. I picked 10 a.m. for my appointment. Thank goodness I picked 10 a.m. God surely had my back here. At the end of the process, a copy of the appointment confirmation was sent to my email. I noticed a number (138) was in bracket beside my time slot and I was wondering if that number indicated the order in which I would be attended to. It turns out the number was not referenced at all on the interview date. But I think that might be because we interviewees were very few at the consulate that day.


US Visa Lagos embassy interview appointment details
US Visa Lagos consulate (embassy) interview appointment details

Forgetting my international passport at home

When I realised this about three hours to the interview on my office seat, even I asked myself: "Of all things"? Fortunately, I realised early enough to make a return trip between work and home and still have some time left.

It took me less than a thirty-minute drive to get back home. The first thing I did was to bring out the passport from my file and put it in my bag. No devil would make me forget this thing again. Then I took off my office clothes and settled to a morsel of Eba and Egusi with goat meat since I apparently still had enough time on my hands. Life is good and ain't no US visa interview gonna ruin it. To be honest, I was actually waiting for the morning rush-hour traffic to subside. So what better thing to do than to kick back and relax with a plate of Eba and goat meat Egusi soup.

By the time I was ready to leave again, it was almost 9 a.m. From my Google maps, I could still see a few patches of dense traffic here and there. And I didn't want to risk being stuck in traffic when all I had was an hour to get from Yaba to V.I. So, I ordered an Uber which arrived a few minutes after 9.

By 9:30, I was back at the office. I rushed in, picked out the documents I needed from my bag and headed out for the consulate which is a ten-minute trek away from my office. Yes, I trekked.


I did not bring my GTBank visa fee payment receipt and appointment confirmation print-out

On my way to the visa interview, one of the 'business men' on the road mentioned the need for these documents it but I ignored. I had followed the instruction on my DS-160 application to the letter. The instruction said to come along with the following documents:
  • DS-160 application confirmation
  • International passport
Well, I also took my passport photographs, because of course, I didn't pay 1500 naira to get 4 passport photos for nothing.

I finally realised I was in trouble when the consulate attendant came out (just before ushering us in), to announce that we should put the following documents inside our passports:
  • GTB visa fee payment receipt
  • DS-160 application confirmation
  • Visa interview appointment confirmation
  • One passport photograph
I had only two of four documents and I knew I was done for. But I kept my cool and did not say anything. I walked in through the gates and security check with the rest of the people who seemed to have all the requirements. 

When I got to the table with the check-in attendants (whom at first glance, I thought were actually the interviewers), I presented my documents to one of them. He soon found out the deficiency in my papers and when he asked, I explained that I didn't come with them because I followed the DS-160 instructions. 

US visa DS-160 Lagos interview; documents to bring
US visa DS-160 Lagos interview; documents to bring

I had hoped I would be able to get away with not having those documents since:
  • I would not have been able to schedule an appointment in the first place if I had not paid my visa fee, or don't they trust their systems?
  • My name would not be on the appointments list if I had not booked an appointment in the first place. Like duh! You just want to 'konk' the person who invented some protocols, because I can understand these ones were just doing their job. 
Another reason I can think of for these apparently unnecessary document checks is the bad reputation that Nigerians have for being fraudulent.

Anyway, the attendant and US Lagos visa consulate authorities were graceful enough to grant me one hour to sort myself out. My appointment was at 10 a.m., so I got a slip which advised me to be back by 11 a.m. with all the missing documents. 

Fortunately, the documents were all in my bag at my office at Kofo Abayomi. The journey back was not easy, though. I had to trek the 10-minute distance between the US consulate and my office once again. Of course, there were cabs all around, with the drivers inviting me in. But come on, I had already spent 2000 Naira on an Uber to work that day. That alone is more than my daily allowance. 

Avoid falling victim to the touts on the way to the Lagos US consulate

On my first trip to the US consulate, I saw my colleague returning from his own interview which was two hours earlier. The only thing he told me was this: "Please, ignore all those boys on the road o"! As a result, I made sure to pay deaf ears to their warnings on my first trip to the US consulate general.

However, on my second trip (after I went back to the office to get the missing documents), my immunity to their prodding was understandably lower. Also, there was this guy who was really persistent and kept on warning me about all the things I was missing for over thirty seconds. Of course, since I'd already been to the consulate once, I knew it was unlikely that I was still missing anything which the check-in attendant did not already tell me about. Nevertheless, I decided to grant the guy audience for all his trouble under the hot sun.

I handed him my documents. He looked through them and the first thing he said was I needed to staple them together, then staple two passport photographs to the documents. He went ahead to staple the documents and I handed him a 100 Naira note in exchange for my neatly stapled documents. Alas, that would not be enough as this crafty guy was bent on milking me further.

Next thing was that I was missing a photocopy of the data page of my international passport. Can you imagine? At this point, my immunity to bullshit kicked back into full gear and I just told him, "I'm already late". To try to persuade me, he said it would take only two minutes but I wasn't having it. He dropped off my back after another ten seconds of following me, trying to convince me that I needed to make that photocopy.

You won't guess the first thing the check-in attendant at the consulate did when I handed him my stapled documents. He ripped them apart, while I stood there, just smiling to myself. Anyway, when I was giving the 100 Naira to the tout, I already told myself it was charity. Needless to say, no one at the consulate asked for the data page of my international passport.

Back at the office after my interview,  one colleague told me that photocopies cost 1000 Naira per copy around the consulate. He also told me that the first time he ever went for a US visa interview at the Walter Carrington consulate, the touts had made him spend almost 20,000 Naira on unnecessary photocopies (and services) for him and his family.

The takeaway? These touts are there to make a livelihood out of the scarcity of complete information on visa interview requirements. I don't want others to suffer the same fate as my colleague did in their hands and that's the major reason I'm writing this article.

I've mentioned it earlier but to reiterate, all the documents which I needed for the DS-160 interview are as follows:
  • My International Passport (no need for photocopies, even though you can make a couple to boost your confidence)
  • My visa fee payment receipt print-out from GTB
  • My DS-160 visa application confirmation print-out
  • A print-out of my visa interview appointment confirmation

Required documentation for US visa interview Lagos consulate
Required documentation for US visa interview Lagos consulate

It is more or less all the documents that have to do with your entire application process (pretty logical, innit). I would say it doesn't hurt though to have a few photocopies of your international passport data page at hand. Who knows if there's a scenario where they might ask for that or if they might start asking for it in the future.

DISCLAIMER: Note that my US travel is for business purposes only. I understand that some additional supporting documents might be required in other scenarios.

The US visa interview proper

There was hardly anyone waiting at the check-in point when I got back to the US consulate the second time. After being scanned thoroughly by the security to be devoid of any electronics, I approached an attendant and handed him all of my documents. Once he confirmed all ok, he directed me to another set of security men who then led me out and into the building on the other side of the road as the check-in centre.

In this building, I underwent another couple of security checks, even to the point of having to remove my belt, before I finally reached the interview room. The interview room is a square hall with the interviewers behind glassed-off stalls which surround the large open space in the centre. The open space in the centre is organised using an array of queue stands.

As I made my way through the queue stands, one interviewee caught my attention. He was an old man who was apparently seeking a visa to visit his family member abroad. It appeared as though, the interviewer was grilling him on questions to determine how truly cordial the relationship between him and his prospective host in the US is.

Before getting to the senior white lady who actually interviewed me, I went through two other consulate staff. The first one (a black lady) took my passport and posted something behind it. The next person (a black man) scanned the sticker behind my passport and recorded my fingerprints using an electronic scanner.

The interview proper which came next was pretty short and went very well. I answered most of the questions without any difficulty and without mincing words. The reason for my travel is simple enough anyway. There was almost a glitch, though, but thank God things did not escalate and I was able to explain myself.

When the interviewer asked me how long my stay in the US was going to be, I said 1 to 2 weeks. Her brows quickly furrowed as she looked intently at me from behind the glass separating us. She told me I had to be specific; it's either one week or two weeks. I really can't remember what I said in response, but after I answered, she asked why I had said "one to two weeks" earlier. I just told her it was a mistake and that the stay duration was not at the top of my mind when she first asked me.

After the interview, I thought a better explanation (which is actually the truth) would have been as follows. "The actual reason I'm travelling to the US would engage me for a full week. But then, one would need to have settled in for one or two days before going about the actual business which brought one to the US. Hence, my mentioning two weeks to cater for the arrival and departure schedules".

Honestly, I was scared that things were going to go south from the point of this mistake because the woman appeared to be upset. Thankfully, I scaled through. The last words which she spoke to me were, "I have issued your visa. You can pick it up from your elected delivery centre in another four days".

Happy frogs from MemeSuper

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32 comments

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19 March 2017 at 22:21 delete

Yay! I have had some interesting experiences at the visa interviews. I find that the interview in itself is pretty straight forward and if you do not overthink it and just tell the truth you are fine. The most interesting thing that happened was one guy who denied going to a country that the stamp was in his passport. It was ridiculous. Anyway congrats on your visa. If you are coming to New York, I live close enough that we can do lunch :)

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vicky U
AUTHOR
19 March 2017 at 23:05 delete

Enjoy your trip.
Hope you get to write about your experience at the airport while travelling

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20 March 2017 at 07:04 delete

Thanks Vicky.

Since you've asked, I'll try my best to write as much as I can about my entire travel experience.

Thanks for reading.

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11 April 2017 at 18:35 delete

Hi Bimmy. This is music to my ears.

Thanks for reading and commenting :)

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13 April 2017 at 06:08 delete

Migrating to a country is a big decision, and a thing not to be taken lightly. Especially a country where there are numerous opportunities in almost all of its states

Australia Skilled Immigration

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2 September 2017 at 15:07 delete

Thanks for the post, i find it guite educating and informative as I will be scheduling my interview soon.

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2 September 2017 at 18:25 delete

Hi Francis. I'm happy to read from you. Thanks for the kind feedback. All the best with your interview and feel free to contact me if you have any questions you think I might be able to answer.

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3 September 2017 at 02:00 delete

Thanks for the info, I'll be scheduling mine soon... Thinking of using an agent...

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Anonymous
AUTHOR
9 September 2017 at 19:02 delete

Hello hafez,but I learnt someone mid to have travelling experience before allowing someone entering into the state.

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9 September 2017 at 19:39 delete

I don't believe that's correct. One of my colleagues with whom I made the trip to the US had a virgin passport. I can't remember him having any hassles being allowed into the country.

Also, for myself, the only non-African country I had been to before making this trip was Dubai and that was just once. The immigration officers at the US airport gave me no hassles, just a couple of questions to be sure my reason for visiting was legit.

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Anonymous
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10 September 2017 at 21:37 delete

Thanks for the info.

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13 September 2017 at 09:42 delete

Hi Hafiz,thanks for the info.I want to try family visa for Xmas vacation to the US.Do you think there are chances for me,that's for me,my husband and my 3underaged children.

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13 September 2017 at 09:58 delete

Hi Joy. Thanks for leaving a comment.

There's still a lot of time between now and then so if it's the time factor you're looking at, I believe that three months is definitely more than enough to get a visa. You can Google "US VISA appointment wait times in Nigeria". I believe you'll find a link on the US immigration website that gives you enough information about how long you'll have to wait after application before you can actually have the visa interview.

I believe the following things will help increase the chance that your family is granted the visas. For sure there's no guarantee and there's always the risk that you lose the quite sizable visa application fee of about 60,000 Naira per head, but you can increase your chances of success by using the following guidelines:

- Apply on time
- Have evidence of how you'll cater for your needs during your time in the USA, including where you'll stay and what money you'll spend
- Having had previous travel experience on your passports, even if it's not the US
- Being completely open and honest about why you're travelling to the US

They just want to know you're responsible and won't abscond when given a short term visa and become a liability to them. So the more evidence you're able to show in that regard, the higher your chances.

I believe the situation might also be more complicated than mine since you'll be travelling with minors (I was a one-man army, travelling for two-weeks business; pretty straightforward). I think it would be a good idea for you to do some further research in that direction.

Arggh! Travelling can be quite a headache. I guess this is why people often defer to agents. All the best Joy!

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Anonymous
AUTHOR
19 September 2017 at 12:04 delete

Weldon sir,hope u doing great...I read one of ur reply and u said it will be good if one has a travelling experience even if its not the USA...Am planning going fo a ten days vacation by December,with my wife and two kids....We havent travelled out of the country before making it a virgin passport we have with us.....What do u think we should do as i am already planning to pay for our Visa fee next week.

txs

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19 September 2017 at 12:12 delete

As I mentioned in that reply, it all comes down to being able to prove your legitimacy. The more the merrier and it doesn't you have to satisfy all requirements to get a visa. It's just that having all the listed stuff reduces your chances of being denied a visa significantly.

Good luck with your visa application. I'll advise you at least ensure that the other three items are fine:

- Apply on time

- Have evidence of how you'll cater for your needs during your time in the USA, including where you'll stay and what money you'll spend

- Being completely open and honest about why you're travelling to the US

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Anonymous
AUTHOR
4 October 2017 at 10:58 delete

Hello. I enjoyed teading ur post. Thanks for the info. My wife has a valid visa has she has made 3 trips to the United States and my kids are citizens but live her with us in naija. I wanna apply for a family vacation with them this xmas, do u think i have good chances

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Anonymous
AUTHOR
6 October 2017 at 14:02 delete

Hello Hafiz, I have completed my DS-160 form online today but i would like to know if i can pay my visa fee right away and book appointment same day after i pay at GTbank?

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6 October 2017 at 14:39 delete

Hi. Please, see the "Scheduling your interview" section on this page (http://www.ustraveldocs.com/ng/ng-niv-paymentinfo.asp) for the answer to your question

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Anonymous
AUTHOR
6 October 2017 at 19:46 delete

Thank you for the help! Appreciate.

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6 October 2017 at 20:00 delete

Haha. I don't know about that o. I wish I could answer this but any response from me would be mere speculation which won't be useful for you.

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Anonymous
AUTHOR
7 October 2017 at 11:05 delete

I was denied visa yesterday with my family in lagos and wat I think was the fact dat I said I have a friend in US and we apply for tourist visa can we apply again indicates dat we dont know anybody is d first form still with them thanks

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7 October 2017 at 11:39 delete

Hi. I won't advise that you contradict what you said in the first interview in a subsequent interview. I believe that they keep records of your answers for any interview, so if you apply again and then say something that contradicts what you said in a previous interview, they'll probably detect and that would be an automatic denial.

I just wish they would tell you why the declined your application, so you know whether it's something you can honestly address before you apply again.

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Adewale
AUTHOR
14 October 2017 at 18:35 delete

Hello Hafiz, Thank you for your write up, definitely going to help. Just a quick confirmation. I did not upload a picture during my DS-160 application (because it wasn't accepting my picture and I saw that I could bring passport photograph to the interview) but I read somewhere, no longer sure where though that they turn people back if you didn't upload initially. Is this true please or can you give me a couple pointers. Thanks

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14 October 2017 at 18:43 delete

Hi Adewale. You have to upload a photo.

http://www.ustraveldocs.com/ng/ng-niv-photoinfo.asp

The shop where I took the photo actually also gives you a CD, so it's very easy to upload. And my upload process was seamless

You can check out the details of the shop here: https://www.vconnect.com/kodak-nigeria-eti_osa-lagos_b200709

Let them know it's for US VISA

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14 October 2017 at 19:22 delete

Thank you for your prompt response.

I have gone to take a proper passport photograph now. But I have already submitted the DS-160 form with no picture and on the confirmation page, it shows this image instead https://ceac.state.gov/GenNIV/_res/img/PHOTO_IND_N.gif that says I should bring the passport photograph to the interview.

My issue now is I want to confirm if there's going to be a problem and possible ways to fix it since I have already submitted the form. Or perhaps I can proceed with it since I've been asked to come with a picture to the interview instead. Thanks

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14 October 2017 at 19:37 delete

I see. My best advice would be for you to complete another application which has the photo and then schedule an interview with the new application.

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22 October 2017 at 17:55 delete

Bro, God bless u for this wonderful experiences u shared with ppl...

You just gave me some clues cos my visa interview is on the 25th of this month... F1 visa... I heard it is always a grueling one but i know God will do it, i am well prepared... I pray i will be favoured

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23 October 2017 at 14:21 delete

i also is preping for an F1 Visa this week n all this ties to ur country tin is just a headache for me cause i never marry n dont have property nor a biz n even study leave.i go just use faith waka dere like dat. but i do have a scholarship n a graduate acquaintanceship job attached. im hoping these r enuf for me to get d visa. its my first interview n a virgin passport. got all the requirements u asked us to get o so i hope i will b lucky. thanks.

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23 October 2017 at 17:17 delete

Wishing you all the best Keku Adedotun and Damilola Daodu. I'm glad this article was of help to you both. May your dreams come true.

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